Back To School Transition Tips

Two young children going back to schoolBack to School time is upon us and for our youngest learners, a well-planned transition will get them off on the right start. Transitions can help build the bridge from one stage of a child’s education to the next, and caregivers who work together in this hand off have the most success.

Transition Strategies For Caregivers

Plan an open house at your center or classroom a few days before school starts, inviting parents and children to visit together. If there are classroom supplies that families are to provide, this is a great time for them to bring them to lessen the load on the first day.

Consider sending an at home activity that families can do with their child and bring to the open house. Another option is to plan a parent/child activity at the open house such as a classroom or building scavenger hunt to help the child to feel more comfortable in their new surroundings and to know where to locate supplies and other areas such as the restroom, lunch room, gymnasium, nurse’s office, and school office. Be sure to invite school personnel to participate in this by greeting families at their station. Perhaps you could have something for the child to collect at each destination on the map, ending up back at the classroom to get their family photo taken by the teacher. This also gives the parent an opportunity to meet other building staff.

Children will feel a sense of belonging if they can see their name on their own coat hook or cubby. For elementary school children, they might put items in their desk. Later you can use the photos from the open house for a bulletin board to welcome the children. This is also a great time to discuss how you will communicate daily/weekly with parents regarding classroom information.

Transition Tools For Parents

Dad taking young son to preschoolFamilies also play an important role in smooth transitions to school. If you have the time, take each child individually to shop for their school supplies. One-on-one time, especially in a household of siblings can be a special way to ease you both into the new routines. If it is your child’s first day of pre-school, you may have many emotions as you separate from your child too.

Parents can help their child by establishing practical bedtime routines several weeks before school. Think about packing lunches, selecting clothes and setting out items you’ll need the night before. This will make morning routines go so much smoother. You may find these tips for easy transitions from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) helpful as you prepare your family for back to school.

What back to school transition ideas have you had success with?

Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Routines Matter

Teacher reading to children and establishing a routine with them.Why Are Routines Important?

One of the most important concepts for parents and child care providers to consider is the child’s daily routine. A well thought out routine can be the secret to a calm, child centered learning environment if planned appropriately. Children desire to know what is coming next in their lives. If the established routine is consistent and predictable, the children in your care will begin to infer and make sense of “time” related to the events in the daily schedule. Perhaps morning snack always comes after story time, or Johnny’s Dad always arrives shortly after outdoor play. When a caregiver commits to establishing a consistent routine, they are building a sense of trust and children have a sense of control over the day.

On the other hand, if the daily routine is full of unknowns and interruptions, this chaotic environment will likely result in worry and anxiety in young children. Children who cannot yet communicate feelings around the disorganization may instead display disruptive behaviors toward the parent or caregiver and other children in the setting.

Routines In The Homebaby-1151347_960_720

Parents and caregivers can work together to establish routines at home that are similar to child care and vise-versa. We all lead busy lives, and weekends and evenings can be even
more spontaneous. Parents will find that they have less struggles with their little ones if they can at least keep meals and bed time or nap time close to a normal routine. Don’t forget to communicate together about changes in your normal routine as well. Caregivers who are aware of this can be more sensitive to individual children’s needs.

Example On How To Keep Routine In The Home

Parents can make a simple flow chart of events as a visual for children at home similar to what you might find in a preschool classroom. This could be posted on the refrigerator and as the day goes on, the child could move a refrigerator magnet to the picture of what happens next. Eventually children won’t rely on moving the marker with each event, and will be satisfied with knowing that they have passed a few steps and can visually see what is next. These picture schedules are also great at preparing children for a change in the daily routine. Parents and caregivers can talk about how the routine will be different today with a simple explanation and perhaps rearrange the photos if needed to help the child see how they will go about the day. Check out these additional tips on establishing routines from eXtension.

Routine With Infants

For caregivers of infants and toddlers routines Infant getting a bathare all about meeting the needs of the child in a responsive, nurturing way. We wouldn’t expect all infants to be fed, or nap at the same time, but the manner in which you respond and the environment you design to meet the infant’s needs can be seen as your established routine. For more information on establishing routines check out this article from NAEYC.

Key Points When Setting Up Your Daily Routine

  1. Consider the age and developmental stage of the children when establishing routines.
  2. Consistency is important to build trust and reduce behaviors and anxiety.
  3. Parents and caregivers can work together to enhance the consistent and predictable routine.
  4. If there must be a change in the routine, try to prepare the child ahead of time.
  5. An established routine will allow you to be flexible when needed with minimal disruptions.

What are your tips for setting up routines in your child care center or home? Leave us a comment below!

Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Field Trip Fun

shutterstock_193504667.jpgPlanning an outing with your preschoolers can be an enriching experience and an opportunity for the young child to explore and learn about their world. When considering a field trip for children in child care settings, there are a few key things to keep in mind including safety, the developmental level and special needs of the child/children, and how you will prepare the child for the event.

Planning

The location of the outing should be carefully planned out ahead of time. Long distance trips in a vehicle that take children away from their daily routine and familiar surroundings for the entire day may not be appropriate for small children who can become easily overwhelmed by change. Trips to the pool might sound fun, however it may be difficult to monitor and ensure safety, depending on the size of your group. When choosing a location, try to make the event inclusive of all the children in your care, and plan for how you will include special needs children as well.

Intentional planning of field trips should also be linked to the curriculum that is centered around the children’s interests and the early learning guidelines that are established, such as those established by the Nebraska Department of Education.

Some of the child driven interests may include nature, insects, farm animals and food. Consider what is available in your local community such as a bakery, grocery store, post office, parks, a nearby farm or county fair.

Preparation

To prepare the children for the outing or trip, parents and teachers can use a variety of strategies such as sharing and reading children’s books, looking at photographs, bringing in some items that the children may encounter on the trip into the classroom (touching a sample of wool from a sheep, or trying on a fireman’s hat). At meeting or calendar time, a special symbol or picture could be placed on the calendar to indicate the day the trip will take place.

After The Field Trip

In keeping with the concept of ‘plan-do-review’, don’t forget to take pictures of the children while at the event. You can use these later to help recall the experience. Children can draw a picture and dictate to the adult what they liked or learned from the experience. Later, the pages could be compiled into a book to keep in the book or library area of the classroom to revisit. Photos are wonderful tools to communicate to parents and they can continue the learning at home.

Check out this resource from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about how to stay healthy when visiting animal exhibits like a farm or a zoo. The CDC also has great information on how to protect children from the sun.

Check out these examples of children’s books related to the farm and farm animals as well as classroom activity ideas.

Author: Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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Who Mentors Your Children?

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The Search Institute has identified 40 assets that are important for youth to have in order to grow and develop. Several of those assets are described as Support – “Young people need to experience support, care, and love from their families, neighbors, and many others.”

Parents are naturally a child’s first line of support, but it should not stop there. Youth need many more positive influences in their lives in order to develop to their full potential. Sometimes these relationships actually become safety nets as teens go through difficult times when they may or may not feel free to go to their parents with situations that come up.

Think back to your own childhood. Who were the major players in your life? Who helped you become what you are now? Who helped you discover and develop special talents and hobbies? Who was always there for you, no matter what? It may have been your parents, but in addition, it may have been a neighbor, grandparent or teacher. Other community members such as Sunday School teacher, 4-H or scout leader are also examples.

These special people are called mentors. Interestingly, it comes from a word meaning “steadfast” and “enduring.” It describes a relationship between adults and youth that helps them develop and succeed. Having a mentor has benefits. It improves self-esteem, helps young people stay in school and improve in their academic achievements. A mentor helps young people discover resources and encourages new behaviors, attitudes and ambitions. Besides the benefit for the youth, being a mentor provides an avenue for adults to give back to others some of the help they have received, and brings a sense of purpose to their lives.

Do your children have mentors? Do they have adults who are taking an active interest in their lives? It may or may not be a formal relationship. It is the positive relationship that makes the difference. If you do not see any of these special relationships in your child’s life, you may want to introduce them to adults who have interests similar to your child’s, or make it possible for your child to spend more time with a grandparent or other special relative. The benefits of these mentoring relationships last a lifetime.

 Jeanette Friesen , Extension Educator | The Learning Child

Originally published as a PDF document for the University of Nebraska IANR. Used with permission from author.

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Cultural Diversity Tips For Teachers

10986943_895728893796197_7564530064451823380_o.jpgEarly learning environments that are culturally and developmentally appropriate enhances the educational achievement and success of young children and encourages them to become citizens of the world who respect and affirm the many ways individuals are diverse.

Children, who become citizens of the world, are empathetic to others. They seek to understand and value the diversity of our community and world while maintaining their own sense of cultural pride and values. Children who become citizens of the world learn to think and act with an anti-bias lens. This means a child will

  • demonstrate awareness, confidence, family pride and develop positive social identities
  • express comfort and joy with human diversity
  • develop deep, caring connections with others
  • recognize unfairness, have language to describe unfairness, and understand that unfairness hurts
  • demonstrate empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and/or discriminatory actions

Creating an environment that helps children become citizens of the world starts with creating culturally responsive educational experiences that promote cultural diversity and inclusion. For example, if a visitor was to walk into your early childhood program would they find materials such as books, crayons, and play items that are non-stereotypical and represent affirming and positive images of diverse cultural groups (i.e. a book about a woman firefighter or an educator in a wheel chair)? Would children be speaking their native language and also listening to music or learning another language as well?

As you think about ways you are helping children to become citizens of the world and creating culturally responsive learning visit our website and explore the Cultural Diversity topic area for additional topics and resources. 

Dr. Tonia Durden, Extension Specialist | The Learning Child

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